Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Despite no votes from Supervisors Bob Berkowitz and Roger Gitlin, the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors have adopted a balanced budget.

“This is the final step to the budget process that started in April,” County CAO Jay Sarina said during the board meeting Tuesday. “Before the board today is a balanced budget, as discussed at length at the last meeting and as prioritized by the board. There have been no changes. No additional revenues or expenditures (and) the general fund is the same.”

Sarina said the result is the top five priorities of the board were funded while those coming in six through 10 were not. However, he said he expects to revisit those when the budget process resumes in spring.

Sarina said he expects no significant changes from the state that will affect the budget.

Board Chairman Chris Howard added the budgeted priority list includes maintaining current service levels in the county (including supplies, payroll and benefits), to fund mandated programs, maintain a $100,000 contingency fund to address emergency needs, maintain the county capital improvement budget and fund that annual debt service for the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority.

Much discussion

In a confusing rearrangement of amended, modified and failed motions, supervisors spent almost two hours discussing the issue at the previous meeting, Sept 12.

In the end, by votes, the board asked Sarina to create a discretionary fund of $25,000 to help maintain traditionally non-maintained county roads. The board also voted 3-2 to use lien payments in a revolving fund to help code enforcement. However, those requests were moved down a list of board priorities for funding.

Staff reports listed the unfunded priorities as extra money to the Klamath Chamber of Commerce, the county non-maintained road fund, a designated general reserve fund, paying for a full-time county engineer and fully funding “a position that addresses the resource-related needs of the County within the Community Development Department.”

Public Comment

Under public comment, resident Linda Sutter questioned the origin of $291,000 in yearly payments being made to the airport.

“There’s projects that need to be done in this county and we’re spending $300,000 for the new terminal,” Sutter said, “and that’s why our things can’t get done here. It’s poor money management.”

Sarina corrected Sutter, noting the payment is part of a lease agreement with the airport authority to maintain and manage the airport.

“That’s an annual payment that was agreed upon several years ago for the actual operations,” Sarina said. “It has nothing to do with the terminal project, which is a (federally) grant-funded project, actually.”

Sarina said the agreement continues for 10 years before it can be reviewed again.

Vote clarification

With no comments from the board, Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen, made a motion, seconded by Supervisor Lori Cowan, to adopt the budget. The vote passed 3-2, Berkowitz and Gitlin opposing.

Gitlin questioned whether a majority or a four out of five vote was needed to pass the budget. County Counsel Elizabeth Cable read from the government code, saying a four out of five vote is only necessary if changes are to be made to the budget after the public hearing.

“If there are any revisions that need to be made from this point going forward, it will need a 4-5 vote,” she said.

The 366-page budget document can be found on the Sept. 26 agenda under Item 3.

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